The inaugural Africa Amateur Championship will feature 72 of the continent’s most promising elite men’s amateur golfers when it is held at the prestigious Leopard Creek Country Club from 21-24 February.
Set against the stunning backdrop of the Kruger National Park, the championship will provide a world-class platform for the region’s rising talent to compete against each other, with golfers representing 24 nations making up the field.
The winner will earn exemptions into The 152nd Open at Royal Troon, The Amateur Championship, the Alfred Dunhill Championship and the Waterfall City Tournament of Champions powered by Attacq, providing life-changing opportunities for the eventual champion.
The week will also see 20 elite women’s amateur golfers compete over 54 holes in the first Africa Amateur Women’s Invitational. The winner will earn starts in The Women’s Amateur Championship, Final Qualifying for the AIG Women’s Open and the Investec South African Women’s Open in 2024, and the Lalla Meryem Cup and Magical Kenya Ladies Open in 2025.
“The creation of the Africa Amateur Championship and Africa Amateur Women’s Invitational reflects our commitment to fostering talent, creating a pathway for aspiring golfers and elevating the standard of amateur golf in the region,” said Phil Anderton, chief development officer at The R&A.
“We want to replicate the success we’ve achieved in Asia-Pacific and Latin America, where our international events for both men and women have become proven platforms for discovering future stars of the sport. A number of these talented golfers have gone on to become Major champions and be successful on the professional tours, inspiring others to pursue their ambitions in golf.
“We are thankful for the fantastic support we have received from Mr Johann Rupert, who is a committed and passionate partner, in staging these events at the wonderful Leopard Creek and we look forward to seeing who emerges from the field to etch their names into history as the first winners of these events.”
Christiaan Maas is the highest ranked player in the field for the Africa Amateur Championship at 14th in the World Amateur Golf Ranking and will be hoping that previous success at Leopard Creek, where he has finished as the leading amateur in the Alfred Dunhill Championship on the DP World Tour for the past two years, will give him the edge.
The 20-year-old South African also enjoyed a successful season last year in which he finished runner-up in the Western Amateur in the United States, was selected for the International team in the Arnold Palmer Cup and earned Second Team All-American honours at the University of Texas.
He is joined by fellow South Africans Altin van der Merwe (176), runner-up at the recent Free State Open, and 2023 Northern Amateur Open champion, Daniel Bennett (289), who has already won this year at the Nomads Coastal and won the 2023 Nomads South Africa U19 Stroke Play by 21 strokes with a score of 34 under par.
Other contenders include Egypt’s top amateur, Issa Abouelela (851), winner of three amateur championships last year, and emerging talent Jack Buchanan (586) of South Africa, who was second in the Junior Orange Bowl International in the United States and won the 2023 All Africa Junior Team Championship.
Uganda’s Godfrey Nsubuga (223) enjoyed four wins last year, including the Johnnie Walker Uganda Open Championship, the NCBA Tanzania Open and the Tea Fields Trophy and Nyali Open, both held in Kenya, while Youssef El Hali (273) of Morocco claimed five domestic amateur titles in a successful 2023 season.
Zané Kleynhans and Kyra van Kan of South Africa lead the competitors vying for the first ever Africa Amateur Women’s Invitational title.
Kleynhans has bagged two amateur titles in the last year at the Eastern Province and Border Championship and KwaZulu-Natal Junior Championship, but will face opposition from 2023 South Africa Amateur champion van Kan and the likes of Gio Raad, who last year won five titles including the English Girls’ Open Amateur Stroke Play Championship.
Photo: The R&A